Ashwagandha is having a moment. It’s been around as a dietary supplement for decades, but only recently has it received such attention, thanks to an abundance of research published over the last few years.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb used in traditional medicine, meaning that it increases our resistance against physical, chemical, or biological stressors, bringing a ‘normalizing’ or stabilizing effect into the body.
I was a dietetic intern in the late 90’s the first time I heard of ashwagandha; a cancer patient was supplementing with it and the oncology team was up in arms about it. The patient was an elderly woman who owned a local New Orleans costume and wig shop and was a strong believer in a holistic approach to wellness. Though she agreed to the chemotherapy treatment, she was seeking any and all additional support, and taking ashwagandha to help manage the stress she was feeling. There was little published research at the time, and the oncology team, understandably, was not comfortable with the potential interaction that it may have with chemotherapy.
Since then, there have been many published studies on ashwagandha, including many potential benefits, ranging from athletic performance to ADHD to bipolar disorder, but more research is needed to confirm the findings of many of these findings.
Here are three benefits of ashwagandha that are backed by science, along with recommended dosage:
Stress | Ashwagandha may help reduce stress and stress-related weight gain.
Details: In adults with chronic stress, clinical research shows that taking 240 mg ashwagandha extracts daily or 300 mg twice daily for 2 months reduces perceived stress levels by 30% to 44% and decreases cortisol levels by 22% to 28%. Other clinical research shows that taking ashwagandha root extract 500 mg twice daily may prevent stress-related weight gain when compared with placebo.
Healthy Aging | Ashwagandha may improve well-being, sleep, and alertness in older individuals.
Details: A small clinical trial in individuals aged 65-80 years found that taking 600 mg ashwagandha extract daily for 12 weeks improved overall well-being, sleep quality, and mental alertness by small to moderate amounts when compared with placebo.
Anxiety | Ashwagandha may modestly reduce anxiety in people with generalized anxiety disorder.
Details: A small clinical trial in patients with generalized anxiety disorder who were taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) found that taking 1,000 mg ashwagandha daily for 6 weeks reduced symptoms of anxiety by 48%, compared with a 27% reduction in patients taking placebo.
Molly Kimball, RD, CSSD is a registered dietitian + nutrition journalist in New Orleans, and founder of Ochsner Eat Fit nonprofit restaurant initiative. Tune in to her podcast, FUELED | Wellness + Nutrition and follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @MollyKimballRD. See more of Molly’s articles + TV segments at www.mollykimball.com, and sign up for Eat Fit Wellness Bites weekly newsletter, here.